The Italian Space Agency (ASI) has signed a letter of intent to secure a full suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The ASI’s spaceflight mission is scheduled to take place in 2019 at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic noted that the ASI flight is meant for conducting scientific research, suborbital experiments and to fly an Italian payload specialist.

“This mission will serve as a pathfinder for exciting future collaborations with ASI.”

The complete agreement will define the technological research areas for payloads while identifying the Italian Principal Investigators as well as successful payload proposals.

The collaboration between ASI and Virgin Galactic will also include training and preparation of the onboard payload specialist and on-site pre-flight support for the payloads.

ASI president Roberto Battiston said: “Virgin Galactic suborbital flights will provide several minutes of microgravity, ideal conditions to develop and test payloads such as those which will operate for months, starting on 2021, on Space Rider, the reusable European Shuttle being developed at ESA.

“Suborbital flights open the way to new utilisation of space based on public-private partnership with the goal not only to fly people but also to manufacture new materials and drugs and to perform scientific research.”

The agreement is expected to open up new avenues for both government and commercial astronaut training.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said: “Collaborative public-private partnerships can enable greater scientific discoveries and technological advances at lower cost, and this mission will serve as a pathfinder for exciting future collaborations with ASI.”